The word ‘brief’ is probably one of the greatest misnomers in the agency world, after ‘deadline’ and ‘on budget’. A brief – a good one, anyway – takes time and consideration, and a clear understanding of the client’s objectives. In other words, the process is anything but ‘brief’. But of course, unless you want to break your agency workflow process, it’s critical to get it right.

Here’s what a brief is:

  • Thorough
  • Detailed
  • Purpose-driven
  • Insightful
  • Decisive

Here’s what a brief isn’t:

  • Ambiguous
  • Open-ended
  • ‘Just something so we have it on paper’
  • Not signed off by the client
  • Tacked onto the seventeenth email in a 35-person email chain

Screw up the brief, and you screw up the project, and your whole workflow management process will be out of whack. It’s that simple.

Get your next brief right: here’s how

Let’s start off with why briefs are so important. Put 10 creatives around a table. Give them a box of art supplies and ask them to draw a house. You’ll get 10 vastly different results. Some will be single-storey, some will have gardens and swimming pools. Some will be super modern while others quirky and whimsical. They’re all houses, sure, but as the client, you probably have a very clear idea of what you want. As the person compiling the brief, you need to figure it out. So let’s start there.

1. Find out exactly what your client wants to build

Imagine your client has told you they want a website. Websites, like houses, come in thousands of shapes and forms. You can’t simply design the website you think will work. You need to ask your client precisely what kind of website they want, why they want it (i.e. what problem they want it to solve) and what they want it to achieve (i.e. why they need the problem solved). You can’t provide a solution without knowing what you’re solving. Also, your client might not know exactly what they’re trying to solve, so this process will help you drill down to the root of the requirement.

2. Figure out who they want to sell to

Just like every solution is different, every audience segment is different. So, who’s the target market for this product or service? Have a clear picture of this segment so you can appeal to them with content that is interesting, engaging and relevant. It’s not about casting as wide a net as possible. It’s about identifying your core audience and the ideas, emotions and desires that resonate with them and compel them to convert.

3. Define the most important take-out

You’ve spoken about what you want the campaign to achieve. Now, distill it into one unified idea. What is the fundamental thing that sets this campaign apart from competitors’? How will you get your target audience to choose this product over others? Make that the focus at every point of the creative process.

4. Check your toolbox

The tools you use to build the campaign are things like tone, style, USPs and other unique hallmarks that define the product and brand. Make sure you have a thorough understand of the voice and tone and that you’re aware of any client preferences, dislikes or non-negotiables. Some clients don’t like certain words, others love certain colours. These are crucial things to list in your brief.

5. Get it signed off

Once you’ve nailed down your brief, make sure it’s signed off by the relevant HODs in your company, as well as the relevant people on the client’s side. Don’t begin work until it’s been approved, otherwise you’ll have no recourse if your client changes the spec halfway through (not that that would ever happen, right?).

If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments. And if you found this post helpful, share it with your network.

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